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Rare sketches of Diana's royal outfits up for auction as 'The Crown' sparks new interest in princess's fashion

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·6-min read

Watch: Princess Diana’s wedding dress designer recalls debut

Sketches of some of Princess Diana’s most iconic fashion moments are up for auction as the late royal’s style gathers a new following.

Diana worked closely with David and Elizabeth Emanuel throughout her time as a royal, starting at her engagement, and their designs included her royal wedding dress.

Now pen sketches created after Diana wore the pieces are up for sale with Kerry Taylor Auctions - and expected to fetch at least £600 each.

The collection includes sketches of the black dress Diana wore for her first public appearance with Charles, at a gala at Goldsmith’s Hall in March 1981.

The strapless, sequinned gown was considered rather daring and revealing at the time.

Elizabeth Emanuel sketch of Lady Diana Spencer's 1981 sequinned black taffeta evening gown. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
Elizabeth Emanuel sketch of Lady Diana Spencer's 1981 sequinned black taffeta evening gown. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
Lady Diana Spencer, later to become Diana, Princess of Wales, in an Emanuel black dress attending her first official engagement with Prince Charles in March 1981. (PA)
Lady Diana Spencer, later to become Diana, Princess of Wales, in an Emanuel black dress attending her first official engagement with Prince Charles in March 1981. (PA)

Speaking about the night in the book, Diana: In Her Own Words, the princess said: “I remember my first (royal) engagement so well. So excited. Black dress from the Emanuels and I thought it was OK because girls my age wore this dress.

“I hadn't appreciated that I was now seen as a royal lady, although I'd only got a ring on my finger as opposed to two rings. Black to me was the smartest colour you could possibly have at the age of 19. It was a real grown-up dress. I was quite big-chested then and they all got frightfully excited.”

Auctioneer Kerry Taylor told the MailOnline: “These sketches have never been sold before.

“Elizabeth and her former husband David Emanuel were a design team but Elizabeth was always the one who sketched the designs and gave her ideas to Diana to look at before they made the dresses.

“The sketches made at the time were very basic studio working drawings - these are finished drawings in pen and ink wash.

“She thought now, with the new series of The Crown, was the perfect time to sell them.”

Taylor added: “The black taffeta strapless one was very important as it was the first time [Diana] appeared in public with Prince Charles after the announcement of their engagement and it didn't go well.

“He didn't like the colour and told her 'my family only wear black when we are in mourning'. When she got out of the car the dress was most unsuitable.”

Also for sale is a sketch of the engagement blouse, a chiffon number with ruff collar and satin bow which Diana wore for her official engagement portrait taken by Lord Snowdon, who was married to Princess Margaret.

Elizabeth Emanuel sketch of Lady Diana Spencer's 1981 'Engagement' blouse. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
Elizabeth Emanuel sketch of Lady Diana Spencer's 1981 'Engagement' blouse. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
A chiffon blouse by the designer Emanuel, and worn by Princess Diana, at her first official portrait by Lord Snowdon, consequently published in Vogue in February 1981, is pictured during a press preview of the forthcoming exhibition entitled "Diana: Her Fashion Story", at Kensington Palace in London on February 22, 2017. Glittering gowns, elegant suits and bold mini-dresses worn by the late Princess Diana will go on show from Friday on the 20th anniversary of her death in a unique exhibition charting her style reign. "Diana: Her Fashion Story" follows her evolution from the demure outfits of her first public appearances to the glamourous gowns of her later life and is being hosted in Kensington Palace, her London residence. / AFP / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS        (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
A chiffon blouse by the designer Emanuel, and worn by Princess Diana, at her first official portrait by Lord Snowdon, consequently published in Vogue in February 1981. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP)

Taylor said the sketches were done after the royal had worn the outfits, with Emanuel creating them as a keepsake for herself, rather than as pitches to the princess.

Also featured is a sketch of the navy and white stripe silk dress Diana wore in 1986 on tour in Bahrain with Prince Charles.

The dress itself was sold at auction in 2019, alongside two others which Diana wore on the same tour.

The striped dress, which had an under-dress with it, sold for £106,000 ($133,903).

Elizabeth Emanuel sketch of Princess Diana's 1986 navy and white silk dress. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
Elizabeth Emanuel sketch of Princess Diana's 1986 navy and white silk dress. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
Diana, Princess of Wales  (1961 - 1997) wearing an Emanuel dress upon her arrival at Bahrain airport, November 1986. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Diana wearing an Emanuel dress upon her arrival at Bahrain airport, November 1986. (Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)

Another piece up for grabs at the auction, on 8 December, is a sketch of the green silk one-shouldered ballgown Diana wore in October 1985, in Melbourne, Australia.

The royal couple were on tour down under and she donned the gown for a gala dinner where she and her then-husband Prince Charles took a spin on the dance floor.

She also boldly repurposed a diamond necklace as a headband.

The headband is included in the sketch by Emanuel.

Elizabeth Emanuel sketch of Princess Diana's 1985 green silk evening gown. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
Elizabeth Emanuel sketch of Princess Diana's 1985 green silk evening gown. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 31: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a green satin evening dress designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel and an emerald necklace as a headband, dance together during a gala dinner dance at the Southern Cross Hotel on October 31, 1985 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Diana wearing a green satin evening dress designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel and an emerald necklace as a headband in 1985 in Melbourne. (Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Elizabeth Emanuel sketch of Princess Diana's 1986 black crêpe evening gown with bows. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
Elizabeth Emanuel sketch of Princess Diana's 1986 black crêpe evening gown with bows. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 06:  David & Elizabeth Emanuel With Princess Diana Looking At Designs And Fabrics In Her Sitting Room At Kensington Palace. They Were Planning Her Outfits For A Forthcoming Tour Of The Gulf States  (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
David and Elizabeth Emanuel With Princess Diana planning her outfits for the tour of the Gulf States. (Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

One of the most impressive lots on offer is the sketch of Diana’s wedding dress, which she wore when she married the Prince of Wales in 1981 at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The dress was recreated for Season Four of The Crown, and David Emanuel was on hand to help the team make an outfit close to the real thing.

One of the sketches is expected to fetch up to £1,000 according to estimates from the auction house.

Taylor added: “What's nice about the sketches is they are affordable. The dresses sell for tens if not hundreds of thousands, they're not affordable but these are accessible.”

Read more: Fashion historian reveals secrets of Princess Diana's wardrobe

Elizabeth Emanuel fashion sketch of the 1981 Royal Wedding dress worn by Princess Diana. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
Elizabeth Emanuel fashion sketch of the 1981 Royal Wedding dress worn by Princess Diana. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
Elizabeth Emanuel fashion sketch for the 1981 Royal Wedding dress worn by Princess Diana. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
The sketch could fetch up to £1,000. (Kerry Taylor auctions)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 29: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a wedding dress designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel and the Spencer family Tiara, leave St. Paul's Cathedral following their wedding on July 29, 1981 in London, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing the wedding dress designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel in July 1981. (Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
The Crown S4. Picture shows: Princess Diana (EMMA CORRIN)
Emma Corrin in a replica of the wedding dress made for Diana, as she plays her in The Crown's fourth season. (Netflix)

The latest episodes of the Netflix series have sparked an increase in searches for clothes inspired by the late royal, as new fans mimic her style.

eBay reported searches for tweed blazers rose by 62%, while searches for sheep jumpers rose by 21%.

Searches for ‘Peter Pan collar’ were up by 22% and those looking for ‘ruffled shirt’ were up by 25%.

Jemma Tadd, head of fashion at eBay UK said: “Inspired by the iconic 90s looks worn by Princess Diana, as replicated in the latest series of The Crown, we’re seeing shoppers turn back the clock. Diana is once again setting the trends, with an uptake in styles from a tartan jacket, to a Peter Pan collar and even that classic sheep jumper.”

The drawings are 11in by 8in and are signed by Elizabeth Emanuel.

They will go up for auction on 8 December in London.